There are people in the Bible whose lives clearly provide us with a warning. The warning is this: Unless we are careful to follow God’s instructions and complete our task, the destroyer is waiting to bring ruin into our lives.
Look, for example, at the young prophet in First King 13. In obedience to God’s instruction, he brought a warning to King Jeroboam of Judah. This young prophet stood before the king and proclaimed his message fearlessly. His word so outraged the king that he stretched out his hand and commanded that the prophet be seized. But as the king spoke, his hand dried up and he was unable to draw it back.
Suddenly, just as the prophet had said, God gave a sign demonstrating that the word the prophet had spoken was true. The altar which had been defiled through the king’s idolatry split apart and the ashes that were upon it spilled out.
Immediately, King Jeroboam entreated the man of God to ask the Lord to restore his hand, and when the prophet asked God, it was restored. Then the king wanted to become a friend to the prophet. But God had instructed the prophet to leave the city and not eat or drink anything there. So the prophet left the city.
This is quite an impressive chain of events. All because this young prophet was willing to act upon what God had spoken to him.
What a powerful beginning! But unfortunately that is not the end of the story. An old prophet was notified of the events experienced by the king. He found the young prophet of God and convinced him, with a lie, to return to the city. After eating with the old prophet, the young prophet was killed by a lion on the road back to Judah. This young prophet disobeyed God’s instruction and it cost him his life. What a tragic finish to such a glorious beginning.
There are so many others who began well but experienced a tragic end: Solomon, whose godly wisdom promoted him to the place of the wealthiest king to ever live, and helped him complete the task of building a glorious temple in which to worship Jehovah. Yet, his life ended having lost that wisdom because he had given himself over to sensuality. He married women from other nations that God had forbidden, and worshipped idols which he had set up in the temple of God. What a tragedy!
Uzziah prospered as long as he sought God. He was a successful leader of God’s people and His armies. But when his heart was lifted up in pride and he became unfaithful to God, he died with leprosy.
Demas was companion and co-worker with the Apostle Paul, but later he betrayed Paul and went back to worldly living.
The message rings out loud and clear: Those who don’t run the race to finish look impressive for a time, but they do not complete the race as winners. What kind of race will we run?